Yet does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand,
and in his disaster cry for help?
Did not I weep for him whose day was hard?
Was not my soul grieved for the needy?
(Job 30:24-25 ESV)
I’m sure I’d be stretching out my hand for help if my house collapsed in an earthquake. It is natural to cry for help when disaster strikes. But do we weep for those whose days are hard? Is my soul grieved for the needy?
Before you answer those questions, here is another one to consider – are we obliged to care for all of the needy?
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure of what the scriptural rule would be, but my gut feeling is that we are obliged to meet the needs of the people we encounter in real life when we have the means to do so (James 2:15-16 and 1 John 4:20-21). I think this is important to be mindful of in these days when we have purposefully heart-wrenching footage of disasters from around the world shoved in our faces daily. For most of human history the only disasters a person would be aware of were those occurring within a maximum of a 100 mile radius of home. Now we have evocative news of worldwide disasters continually before us.
So what to do? It would be naive and selfish to turn a blind eye to the truth of all the suffering in this world. Yet there is also no point in feeling condemned for all the unmet needs out there.
An approach which I am taking is to focus in on the issues facing one group of people. Ever since participating in the month of prayer for the Shan people of Burma in October 2010, I have not been able to ignore the needs and suffering of these people. So I avidly monitor news from Burma and continue to pray for them. Some of that news is from Vision Beyond Borders who recently sent a team into the area affected by the recent 6.8 magnitude earthquake on 24 March:
We are in Yangon, everything was safely delivered through Customs and is being shipped north to the earthquake affected areas. It seems the government has offered very little help. We are hearing that the villages in the mountains were affected the most. The people are very fearful as the tremors have not stopped. The people who live in brick and concrete houses are afraid to stay in their houses for fear that they will collapse on them.
One of Pat’s contacts here is seeing if he can get permission for us to travel up north to where the earthquake was, but that is also where the genocide is occurring and hence it is a lot harder to get to. The government doesn’t want anybody to find out about the earthquake or any outside help to come in. We were looking at some pics of the devastation and there are some cracks that are about two feet wide and twenty feet deep; looks pretty bad. Just heard this morning that there are still tremors going on!
News from Vision Beyond Borders, Saturday, 23 Apr 2011 (www.visionbeyondborders.org)
Please continue to pray for the nation of Burma as they recover from the earthquake. Pray God will protect the people, and they will be able to find adequate shelter and food until their homes are able to be rebuilt. Please pray for the children who lived in the Children’s Home that was destroyed, and pray all will be protected from the upcoming monsoon rains. (www.visionforburma.com)